A Fond Farewell

We had our last hurrah in New York today. It was lots of fun struggling through the streets with our luggage. It seemed like it grew over the week! Half of us volunteered at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger and the other half went to B’nai Jeshurun. I was in the group that went to WSCAH. It was a fantastic food pantry whose mission is to serve the needs of the community while promoting dignity. The pantry is set up like a little grocery store and customers come in with shopping carts and pick out food with a point system. We were shown the ropes by a wonderful volunteer named John. He is currently in-between jobs but spends his time volunteering at the pantry. He spends so much time there that he has started to pick up shifts. It was very inspiring to hear his story.

I was astonished by the amount of food they receive. Our job today consisted of bagging onions, potatoes, and cabbages. We bagged up the food and then took it into the pantry room for the customers to pick out. We saw some of the cutest kids today helping their parents pick out food! It was a great feeling to see families pick out healthy food. I was extremely impressed that some of the pantries we have visited this week offer cooking classes for their members to help learn how to prepare nutritious meals. It’s great that they are helping them learn self-sufficiency, many of them may not have any experience cooking healthy foods. It sounds like a wonderful program. The cooking class at WSCAH actually prepared the meal that we had for lunch today. They serve lunch for the volunteers everyday. It was delicious! (and an excellent break from the smushed PB&J at the bottom of my backpack) The WSCAH also offers clothes for people who need them and has a Meals on Wheels program.

After bidding farewell to the staff we headed out to meet the other group who had been working at B’nai. They spent the day with some colorful characters preparing and serving food! Once we were all together we set off waddling towards the subway laden with our baggage. It was nice to sit on the bus and just sleep for a while. I slept like a rock! We parted ways with some of our troops in NY and Boston as they set off to see their friends and families for a little while before we all have to go back to Colby! We are now relaxing at the Marano’s and will enjoy not sleeping on a hard wood floor!

Even though we’re all tired, we had an amazing time in NY and it was a worthwhile experience.


Kelly, Cassie, Noma, Stephanie, Kristy, and Sarina at West Side Campaign Against Hunger

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Keeping busy in NYC

Today was another busy day for our ASB group! From the time we got up this morning to finally getting back to our church this evening, it seems we’ve been trying to pack as many sites and activities into our day as possible, in order to make the most of our time in the city.

We started off our day at Yorkville Common Pantry, the same site that we volunteered at on Monday. Due to a mix-up with the time we were scheduled to work, we ended up heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art until our shift at 11:30am. When we returned to YCP, we split up into two groups to help with food distribution. The manner in which they do this at YCP, I found to be very interesting. Each person receives a certain number of food points per week depending on the size of their family. When they arrive at YCP, volunteers assist them with picking out food items using tablets. Their order is then printed upstairs in the food pantry, and more volunteers work to put together their order in plastic bags.

I got to help out in the group downstairs using the tablets and meeting all the people that come to YCP. Although we weren’t able to have long conversations with each of them, it was nice to be able to greet them with a smile and help them with their groceries. Also, many of the people that we met spoke mostly Spanish, so we were able to put our language skills to good use. Overall, YCP has been one of my favorite volunteer sites because we were able to see all stages of the how it operates from stocking the pantry to food distribution.

After our shift at YCP we made our way over to the United Nations Headquarters for a guided tour. On our tour we got to see the Security Council Chamber, the General Assembly, and some other neat exhibits. One aspect of our tour that I found especially interesting was when our tour guide talked to us about the UN Millennium Development Goals. In particular, I was struck by the goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. I think that throughout our trip we have been able to see how people are working to achieve this goal on every level, from international organizations to local communities. Although we’re only helping out in one city for one week, I’d like to think that the work that we’ve done in NYC has contributed in some small way to the achievement of this goal.


The UN General Assembly

Our tour guide explaining the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Community Centers and Friends in New Places

Today, Tuesday, March 20th, was a full of exciting events and activities. We arose at the hour of 7:15, bleary-eyed and sleepy (we were kept out of our sleeping room until around 12:20 last night, after realizing we did not have the key to said room at midnight. Oops). The group collectively decided to shun the warm instant oat packets that we had been eating, and splurge on a real breakfast in the city. We ended up deciding on the Moonrock Café, a small and relatively authentic diner near Columbus Circle. I got scrambled eggs with bacon, toast and hash browns. Quite delicious, and the coffee perked me up for our next engagement, the lunchtime shift at the Lincoln Square neighborhood center.

Upon arrival at the center, we donned plastic disposable aprons, gloves, and ultra-flimsy hairnets before beginning the prep work for lunch, which was pork and pasta with peas, with cucumber salad and applesauce for dessert. The food we helped prepare was relatively small in volume compared to other sites we had visited, as the Lincoln Square community center mainly focuses on provided social and exercise programs for its (largely elderly) client population. I helped to serve milk and make 50 or 60 cone-shaped paper contraptions, which were intended to hold the fries on tomorrow’s menu. For forty-five minutes or so, it was like I was back in the 7th grade. 🙂

There was ample opportunity to talk to and interact with the twenty or so elderly customers lounging at tables set up in the center’s gymnasium; many spoke mostly Spanish. In this sense, this volunteer site gave us much more of an opportunity to work and interact with the people who were serving, which was a welcome change from the heavy lifting and food prep earlier in the week. I guess that makes sense, as this was a community center and not a soup kitchen or a food pantry. Towards the end of our shift, everyone pitched in to fold then stuff in envelopes what seemed to be hundreds upon hundreds of bright green, blue, and white community center schedules.

After saying goodbye to everyone at the community center, we took the metro down to the recently opened 9/11 Memorial, at Ground Zero. The lines to get in were long, and there were more police and other intimidating-looking officials in one place than I’d seen in a while. They also made us put our belongings through an x-ray machine, a la airport security procedures. This struck me as excessive, but I can see why they would insist on such a stringent screening procedures, given the nature of the Memorial. The Memorial itself was beautiful, consisting of two large pools (each the exact footprint of one of the towers), sunk to a depth of thirty feet. Waterfalls cascade inwards from all sides, and the names of those who lost their lives that day are inscribed on the circumference of the pool railings. Overall, the experience was sobering and powerful.

We then changed into dress clothing in the public bathrooms of the Port Authority bus station (an activity which I vow never to do again), and bumbled over to Azalea Ristorante, an upscale Italian restaurant owned by Libby Corydon Apicella ’74, where we had been invited to an alumni dinner. The other ASB group had already arrived (in matching CVC t-shirts), as well as three alumni and Professor Robert Weisbrot, a current Colby history professor. The food was fantastic (a three course meal), and the conversation was interesting. I would hope events like this could be put on in the future, and it was nice to see that Colby alumni are willing and able to come socialize with current students. There is life after college!

After dinner, we made our way down Broadway. Its crowded sidewalks were lit extensively by garishly horrifying (video) billboards. All manner of stores were still open, and we made an extensive stop into the Forever 21 store (four floors of clothing! Woo!)

We arrived back at our church on 114th St after 11, tired and quite happy. It was a good day.

That’s all for now.


ASB volunteering at Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center

Reflecting pools at the 9/11 Memorial

A familiar banner greeted us at Azalea Ristorante for the Colby Alumni/Student dinner

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Today we began with a little bit of a struggle getting up and out on time.  But after we finally got some starbucks and breakfast in us, we were on our way to work at the Yorkville Common Food Pantry. It was a great experience for all of us and we all did some major bonding.  It was a lot of lifting and our organizational skills might have been a little tested, but we definitely had a successful day.  We even got to hang out with a 7th grade volunteer named Catherine. During our downtime, we played WAH in the street…maybe a little too loud for the surrounding businesses.  After our time at the pantry, we made our way to Central Park to have a picnic lunch.  Our group eventually split and my (Divya) group made our way to 5th Avenue.

It was great seeing all the fancy designer stores and the beautiful churches.  But outside one of the churches was a poor lady crying and begging for money.  Our group wanted to give her something, and all grabbed a little change to put into her cup. The moment we did though, I felt people staring at us.  Sarina even mentioned that people might have looked at us like “naive tourists” who didn’t know what she was really going to do with the money..as if she was for sure going to use it for drugs.  Most of the group then crossed the street, but Ellie and I stayed back and watched a police officer ask that lady to leave.  That scene was sad enough to see with the lady grabbing the last bit of dignity she had left, trying to gather her tattered blanket and other belongings.  The thing that struck me most was the man dressed in a tailored suit sitting on the stairs of the church who CLAPPED when the officer came over to tell her to leave. It was so upsetting because it felt like that lady trying to survive was interrupting his 5th Avenue experience.  It took a lot of me not to ask him to explain why he did that, so maybe he could think about the implications of his mini celebration.  After I told the rest of the group, they said that it wouldn’t have made a difference.  Which I think, unfortunately, was true. It was almost too much to continue to walk on that same avenue and look at mannequins wearing clothes worth so much more than that lady could probably dream of.


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Our first full day in the Big Apple

We struggled to wake up at 6 am this morning as some set off for a morning jog and others got ready for the commencement of voluntary work. Kristy, Salome, Kelly, Czarina, Gabe, and Noma warmed up with a game of contact in the subway on their way to The Bronx. The team sobered up to the reality of the situation in the lower class neighborhoods as they walked the last mile to their destination; there was a striking contrast between the neighboring neighborhoods of Manhattan and The Bronx. They arrived at POTS (Part of the Solution) where Keith the middle aged cook warmly welcomed them. Immediately the group began work packing fruit and vegetables for the POTS pantry. When all the work was done, Keith took the group on a tour of the premises. We were all impressed by the various services that POTS offers ranging from the food pantry project, provision of clothing and toiletries, medical care, to legal services, which are all targeted at promoting self sufficiency amongst beneficiaries. What was even more admirable was that POTS provides 150,000 meals per year and its other services using money from donations without any funding at all from the government.

At the end of the day, the team headed off to The Botanical Gardens, 5th Avenue, and Central Park for some site seeing.


Gabe, Keith, Czarina, Noma, Salome, Leah, Kelly, and Kristy at POTS

Central Park Reservoir


Group B spent the morning and early afternoon traipsing around New York. Later in the day, we travelled back to the church where we sleep and volunteered in the kitchen until dinner time. A group of 5 Colby students and two regular church volunteers helped prepare the meal for the next day. After nearly two hours of prep work from each of us, the bulk of the meal was prepared. One of the volunteers explained to us that usually they do all the work between the two of them. Woah. The inability for social programs to function without the help of support from the community blows my mind. Although this point has been accentuated before, to find yourself amidst it and experience the effort it entails to make the “machine” function is both moving and horrifying.


ASB enjoying a rather large pizza dinner

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We’re Here!!! <3

So we are finally in NEW YORK!! So exciting! This day could not have been any better! It was fantastic! We traveled the subway with our awkwardly large luggage. We lost Sarina, Sam, and Salome- just for a bit. We looked completely out of place at Columbia University! We traveled the city looking completely like tourists and LOVED it! When we finally made it to Times Square we had the funniest interactions with some drunk Saint Patty’s day party goers while eating gelato! Hung out in the Square watching some fresh break dancers show there moves! All while getting to know each other forming bonds and having endless Heart to Hearts! I can’t wait for tomorrow! This trip is going to be great!

Cassie Out

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And so it begins!

Hello from ASB NYC!

Our journey has finally begun! We left Colby today at 3pm and arrived at Stephanie’s house in Canton, MA at 7:30pm. We received a warm welcome from her family and enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by Mrs. Marano. It was great sitting around the table having our first family dinner as an ASB group. We shared stories and had a lot of good laughs- a sign that this is going to be an awesome trip!

Tomorrow we will be taking the bus from South Station to NEW YORK CITY! Our volunteering begins on Sunday. Every night we will have several of our ASBers post about our most recent adventures in the city. Check back here to read all about them!

With ASB love,

Kristy, Stephanie, and Czarina

(KSC, co-leaders of ASB NYC)

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